I Just Don’t Know How

There she is again. When I start doubting the wisdom of this Quest, she appears in my head, blue eyes blazing with her own special brand of intensity and fierce love: “Of course you can do this. You just don’t know how…. You’re scared? Good. You feel the gulp?…. Good, you’re on the right track – now get moving. Remember, you just don’t know how.“ She smiles her sex kitten smile, eyes twinkling in her devilish way, and then she is gone.

Laura Whitworth — friend, mentor, antagonist, and cattle-prod — left an indelible mark on my life. She taught me what it means to have a stake in something that matters so much it becomes more important to me than the stroking of my ego (not an easy feat). She was a tough cookie — and yet for all of her brusque exterior, her conviction about life was ultimately human and loving. She knew that human beings were born to be connected to one another – that human beings long to love, to be loved, and to have their lives matter to each other. The ”Laura-ism“ that pops most frequently into my head these days is this:

”They just don’t know how….“

”They want to listen…. they just don’t know how.“ ”They want to open their hearts… they just don’t know how.“ ”They want to be present and aware… they just don’t know how.“ The enormous power of this conviction is that it creates POSSIBILITY.

Me and Laura at the Mother Tree in 2002

Me and Laura at the Mother Tree in 2002

I had the great fortune to have Laura as my Co-Leader and mentor when leading my first Co-Active Leadership cohort seven years ago. With her, I learned the power of shifting my perspective about others and their motives away from ideas like ”they can’t“ ”they don’t want to“ or ”they won’t“ to ”they just don’t know how..“ With this shift, possibility suddenly appears; an avenue for learning and awakening and change unfolds that was previously hidden.

So, I ask myself: What if I applied this idea to my own life and challenge?

• I can change my eating habits and relationship with food… I just don’t know how.

• I can open myself to love and support and cheerleading from my friends, colleagues
and families…. I just don’t know how.

• I can prepare myself to compete in a triathlon safely…. I just don’t know how.

• I can establish a day-to-day lifestyle that fuels vitality…. I just don’t know how.

Hmmm… what if I go further out on this limb… more unreasonable… more audacious?

• I can recover quickly… almost instantly…. when I slip into any sort of downward spiral…. I just don’t know how.

• I can create increasingly healthy coronary arteries and reverse the course of my disease…. I just don’t know how.

• I can learn lessons that can impact a community of heart patients in meaningful ways…. I just don’t know how.

• I can have heart disease be the platform and catalyst for the greatest wisdom, joy, and contribution of my life…. I just don’t know how.

When I really let myself step into this mindset – it is freeing. Suddenly my experience shifts from a focus on what cannot be, to what is possible.

Opening the door to possibility is to stake a claim on the future that I want. To declare it is to bring its possibility into greater existence. According to Peter Block in his book Community: The Structure of Belonging, ”…possibility is brought into being in the act of declaring it (p. 17). When I allow myself to open this door, I feel something inside me. Rather that dredge up my historical drama of why things are how they are, and why I’ll never be able to change, there is a noticeable and surprising blip on my screen of “Oh… maybe I really CAN do this!” It is subtle, instantaneous, and makes me grin. Most importantly, it (in the moments when I stay conscious of it) translates into different choices and behaviors…. It has me choose NOT to reach into the breadbasket… it has me get up at 5:45 a.m. on the cold snowy days to go to the pool and swim.

I notice that at this moment in time… truth be told I still do not believe that I can really shift my eating habits to consistent healthy ones. I am still, largely, in a mode of overlaying a fabricated story of “yes I can” on top of what feels like a more real and entrenched view of “no, I can’t.” Transforming beliefs is tricky business. I notice that when I move too quickly or without repeated reflection…. it is reduced to wishful thinking. And so, I’ve got to be honest about this. Maybe it happens in stages,and I must start this particular part of the journey from where I am. I do believe that — in general — change is possible. I do believe that…. ultimately….. I can be successful at this. So, here is the step one place I’m going to go:

I can discover and integrate a new and healthy mindset about eating, food and weight that will sustain me…. I just don’t know how.

PROGRESS UPDATE: Last week I was leading a Co-Active Leadership Program retreat in California. I made a pledge to refrain from eating flour and sugar for the week, and to exercise at least 3 times. I did very well for the first four days — practiced my yoga and ate very mindfully. I lost my resolve in the last few days and indulged in some desserts, and am now back on the horse.

This week I’m going to begin a 21-day cleanse diet starting on Wednesday (based on the book “If the Buddha Came to Dinner.” (This is very similar to Oprah Winfrey’s “Optimum Health” cleanse.)

For those of you subscribing to and commenting on this blog: THANK YOU. Your words of encouragement have an enormous impact on me.

~ by Art on February 16, 2009.

One Response to “I Just Don’t Know How”

  1. Hi Art:

    This is really Karen posting from Henry’s computer. Your photo of Laura made me cry. No big leap for me as I cry at Hallmark commercials. And it is great to be reminded of the words and inspiration of Ms Laura as I dance with my own limiting beliefs.

    Thanks Art. I look forward to seeing you IN those tiger shorts and will be using my own version to keep myself going here in rainy Californai.



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